Cleanup efforts at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant took a significant step forward late last month when the first of 22 cold traps used in the uranium-enrichment process was shipped off-site.
During the plant’s uranium-enrichment years, cold traps supported various processes, including activities at the C-410 feed plant. That 5-acre facility produced uranium hexafluoride (UF6).
The cold traps — long, cylindrical heat exchangers — were used to convert UF6 gas to a solid that was later liquefied, transferred to cylinders and fed through pipes into a system of process gas equipment where enrichment occurred.
“We advance the cleanup at the Paducah site one step at a time,” said Jennifer Woodard, DOE’s Paducah site lead. “The removal of this first cold trap is a step forward.”
Cold traps at the site range in size and can weigh as much as 16,000 pounds — about four times the weight of an automobile. Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, the deactivation and remediation contractor at the DOE facility, led the efforts to ship the 15,000-pound cold trap off-site for disposal.
“Our team worked many hours to ensure the work was accomplished without compromising the safety or health of our workers, the public or the environment,” said Myrna Redfield, president/CEO and program manager for FRNP.
The cold trap was packaged and shipped intact, which reduces the risk of exposure to hazardous materials. The DOE did not specify where the cold trap was being shipped to for disposal or provide a timeline for the shipping of the remaining 21 traps.